ECW Press | 2018 | 88 Page | $18.95 | Purchase online
Review by M.A. Mahadeo
Lenea Grace’s debut poetry collection A Generous Latitude is an intertwined tale of human interaction, love, loss, and the need for connection. Language transcends literal meaning to reflect today’s dating culture, I found most specifically with the one phrase, “I wonder: will we get there,” from the poem “The Load Out/Stay” referring to today’s incremental qualifications of love and relationships. Grace’s collection gives the answer to the question, “will we get there?” and the overall human experience.
A Generous Latitude explores the search to understand the Western, sometimes specifically Canadian, female experience. The lines, “Margaret Trudeau hustled and bumped at Studio 54. Margaret Trudeau was bipolar. Therefore, she set the trend for Canada’s love-hate relationship with her husband, non?” from the first poem, “Proofs” illustrates a generation gap in feminist thinking and relates her own struggle to their opinion of her husband and son. The reference to “love-hate” is also a distinct allusion to the perception of mental illness and women. Throughout modern day, women’s mental illness has been dismissed as “crazy,” and Grace’s juxtaposition of the two strongest emotions plays on this thought.
The definition of femininity is crafted flawlessly in the poem, “Rib.” This poem references the biblical story of God removing a rib from Adam to form Eve, stating the male figure in the poem does not want the heart or the emotional attachment from the female, “but the rib you stole.” The final line in this poem, “he has always been a selfish lover,” is gasp inducing. This one line ties the poem to the #MeToo movement, as it is not the love of the woman he is after and will use force to receive what he believes is owed to him. This simple, short poem touches on the big topic of rape and troubles relationships built on toxic lust and not love.
A Generous Latitude has a mission to define the similarities within us and does so beautifully. In today’s culture so often, we define one’s self-worth from likes on social media, and Graces’ play on this is brutally raw and honest. The poem “Faceblue,” a clear mockery of Facebook, mentions the need for more likes, Kick-Starters for felines, and Halloween, a metaphor for social media, which draws the reader into the theme of hiding behind a facade. The line “Thank you for your prayers, your precious time,” is a clear allusion to social media outbursts after horrific events. Most recently this line hits home with America’s March for Our Lives, which called out social media prayers as inaction during atrocities. This poem purely reflects the need to come from behind the laptop and not only fight for others, but to not lose oneself in the performance of a self, or as Grace puts it, “Halloween.”
Social media was again humorously attacked in my personal favourite poem, “Germans Love David Hasselhoff.” Grace imports moments of popular music and internet culture to illustrate how absurd “famous fantasies” can become. By bringing David Hasselhoff, a “low brow” artist into the poem, his influence and significance becomes elevated and we can find humour in both poetry and social fads.
Grace’s collection comes to a conclusion with the daring, “Influence.” The reference to Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham conclude the collection in a gust of pure, human emotion. With this reference, Grace defines the human condition as creating beauty out of despair, affairs, and sadness. Fleetwood Mac’s album, “Rumours,” was soaked in dramatic innuendos between ex-lovers Nicks and Buckingham. The artists were singing directly to each other about their shared yet separate torment and their soul-driven words created what is widely touted as one of the best albums of all time. The line, “I want to fill in this space between mouth and mouth because they are our mouth,” rings true as our experiences, with others, become our own life experiences, whether they involve mouths or not. We as humans take our interactions and spin them into gold to get through our lives, and A Generous Latitude contributes to this practice.
Grace’s debut collection is one to embark on for answers, laughter, and simple truths which we all can relate too.